You see Nathan Fox everywhere these days. He’s been designing skateboard decks for Instant Winner, doing editorial illustrations for places like MTV, creating t-shirt graphics and now drawing comics for DC / Vertigo, Dark Horse and Heavy Metal. Nathan is one of the new bright spots in comicdom and I hope he remains there for years to come.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
The First professional work I did was in NY. I had done some local work when I lived in KC,MO and Milwaukee, WI for a few papers and magazines but the first one I did when I was serious about it all was for the NY Times Book Review and Steven Heller, the AD at the time. I think that was in 2000 before I started grad school. We had just moved to NY so I could attend SVA’s MFAI program and I heard that Steven Heller doesn’t hire SVA students till they graduate but that he was one of the last art directors to see anyone and everyone in person. So before school I made and apt. and he tore my portfolio to shreds. My work was all over the place but he liked my drawing so I went back when I had some new work and he kept slicing it up. But out of no where he called for a review piece on an Antarctic explorer I think and I was hooked and I got my first break into illustration. That led to more and more newspaper work and eventually magazine and color work.
However, knowing I had tried to sneak in as a student since he never hired students, he of course being friends with the head of the MFAI program, came to our lectures class and spotted me off the bat. He never said anything, there is no proof the rumor was true but for some reason the book review work stopped. his secretary said he was busy and so on. I felt horrible but it was cool. He hired me back after a while but only during the summer time and holidays it seemed. I was always curious about that rumor. Steve’s a really cool guy and a hell of constructive critic… no doubt.
Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)
Art schools. KCAI in Missouri for undergrad and SVA’s MFA program in illustration – Illustration as Visual Essay. Grad school was definitely mentor/competitive peer boot camp time but oddly enough we got along too well and still managed to hack and slash each others work when needed. I had an amazing advisor my last year and working along side the people who came through the program was as inspiring as finally living in NY. I know it sounds cheesy but I have to admit it was true. Was lucky to be surrounded by talent and in a city that fueled just about everything else.
Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?
Mainly old rapidographs from high school/college, sticks, Windsor Newton series 7 brushes and scharff brushes. But to tell you the truth if it’s around and I think I can use it I usually do or try.
Quill pens, drafting and dental tools, etc. For illo work it varies but usually just straight brush and ink on Bristol.
Favorite brand of ink:
FW and Yasutomo and Co. Sumi. Love their orange/china-red sumi for gallery work
Type of paper:
Bristol, Velum and printmaking papers
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?
Yoshitoshi, Samura, Hernandez, Davis, Otomo, Caniff, Bernet, Berthet…
Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job? Could you give us a quick overview of your process?
loose sketches to hash out the ideas. Pick a few; hash out one or two still pretty loose sketches, sketch approvals and then the finals.
I’m pretty impatient so end up starting and finishing as fast and linear as possible for some reason. Over time my sketches have gotten super loose. Mostly out of necessity to retain some artistic freedom in the finish.
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
Here’s what’s on my recently played itunes:
Faith No More
Queens of the Stone age
Sly and the Family Stone
The White Stripes
General Patton V.S. The X-Ecutioners
The Beastie Boys
John Spencer Blues Explosion…
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you).
I have a few I am pretty proud of.
A Sacred Monkey Drawing from Marshall Arisman, A tiki girl print from Mitch O’ Connell, A train wreck piece of Paul Chatems and over the fire place that doesn’t work, Corey Goering’s SOS painting.
Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)?
Last movie I saw was Iron Man I think. It was good but I wouldn’t really recommend it although I am sure I will rent it again. Angel-A was a great Black and White Foreign Art Film if you haven’t seen it.
I rent a lot doing the work/fatherhood thing. Not a lot of time for art film houses and movies these days. Catching up on my anime lately. Paprika and Kite are great recommendations. Black Lagoon and Ergo Proxy are two solid new series I found on Disc. If anyone knows how to get a hold of the Gatchaman 2000 animated series, PLEASE drop me a line. Been searching for it for a long time. But then again, I’m a poor searcher…
Current and upcoming projects.
I just finished part 1 of Fluorescent Black due out in the Sept. Issue of Heavy Metal and debuting at SDCC with a special edition cover they’re giving away. So if you are going please stop by and say hey or file a complaint. All are welcome. Wrapping up Pigeons from Hell #4 and getting really excited in the way it is finishing. Other than that there are some pending freelance gigs at the end of the month that I’ll probably be finishing during Wizard Con Chicago. I am on a few pitches that are floating around out there, but we’ll have to wait and see. If you dig the art and narrative or want to see more please send an email to Mike Richardson at Dark Horse. He is sitting on two killer scripts by Adrian A Cruz (http://www.chambersix.com) that I am dying to do. If no one else picks up any pitches I am hoping to take them to Image or the like and just do it on our own over the next few year. Hopefully Pigeons and FB are the beginning of many more to come. Just have to wait and see how it all unfolds. Keeping my fingers crossed.
What would you tell an aspiring artist who is working his ass off but still needs and wants to break through to the next level?
Man. I never know what to say to this one illo or comic’s wise. Feels like Im just getting started myself. I guess I could answer that when I’ve figured some more things out. Till then how about, good luck and look out. Honesty and persistence never hurt, on any level…
Above are the original illustrations for the 7 Deadly Sins skateboard series that Nathan did for Instant Winner. Below are the finished products.
You can find out a lot more about Nathan by going to the following places:
Previous Masters of Ink: